Remembering Father Hesburgh's Legacy

Author: Julia Tombari


In light of his recent passing, I wanted to write a blog to reflect on Father Hesburgh’s life and his contribution to the ND community, myself, and the world.

I had the privilege of meeting Father Hesburgh twice through the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program here at Notre Dame. I will always remember shaking his hand on my very first day on campus. I was in a surreal blur at the time, as this was when I was seriously considering attending Notre Dame and was in awe at the campus in its wintertime beauty. However, my conversations with Father Hesburgh really struck me.

I went up and introduced myself, and he asked me what I wanted to major in at Notre Dame. When I mentioned business and Chinese, he began talking to me in Chinese. I had no idea that he was multilingual! We then discussed his travels around the world, and I could just tell he had done and seen so much. That moment truly struck me throughout the rest of the Finalists' Weekend; and I found myself knowing that I wanted to attend Notre Dame more than ever.

Hesburgh  genuinely exemplified what it means to be a transformational leader. Transformational leadership is critical to approaching issues in today’s society and requires going beyond meeting basic needs and listening to others, whether in your field of work or in your personal relationships. It requires a deeper understanding of the human person and a sense of empathy and compassion as well. He often mentioned that to be a leader one had to have vision. Not only did he have vision, but I think Hesburgh also epitomized what it means to acknowledge others - their backgrounds, talents, and stories.  When I met him for a second time, he made a point of talking to everyone in my scholars program and, with each conversation, he acknowledged how each of us would be able to use our various skills and talents to change the world. Throughout my time here at Notre Dame, I feel that his legacy of being transformational and relating to others has impacted how I view my studies, my work, and my friendships and all other connections.

When I heard of his passing, I was deeply saddened - but at the same time, I realize that his legacy and impact to the community here at Notre Dame and the larger world is truly eternal.  When I watched his memorial service, it was truly evident that his life touched so many people throughout the history of the United States as well as the history of this school. I realized that it is up to us, the younger generation, to take his life as a reminder that we too can be leaders in our respective fields. I am inspired to have known such an incredible person who was a friend to all and a true leader of our time.